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on October 12, 2007
When we last left Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett), she was young and inexperienced, struggling to come to terms with ruling a country. We now rejoin her in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," which begins well into her reign; beginning in the year 1585, the film chronicles the growing tension between England and Spain and culminates with a fierce sea battle. It also examines the relationship between Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen), an adventurous seafarer. What we're presented with is less of an actual account and more of a dramatic love story, which basically means that it isn't even close to being historically accurate. But I guess that isn't a bad thing, considering the film's more creative aspects--"The Golden Age" is a triumph of set and costume design, and the performances are top notch.

If only the story were at the same level. It would be too much to say that the plot isn't interesting; rather, it isn't interesting enough. Much of the material plays like a run of the mill romance, regardless of the time period. I just know that so much more defined Queen Elizabeth I, and I wish the filmmakers had given her character a little more depth. Not that she's completely shallow--if anything, quite a lot weighs heavy on her mind, not the least of which is her conniving cousin, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton). Most of their rivalry stems from different religious faiths: Elizabeth is Protestant while Mary is Catholic. Hoping to take control of the throne, Mary conspires to have Elizabeth assassinated. Intercepting on Elizabeth's behalf is Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush), the Queen's most trusted advisor.

On Mary's side is Philip II (Jordi Mollà), King of Spain, who believes that Elizabeth has turned England into a godless country. He intends to conquer the Queen by sending a mighty armada, and the Spanish Inquisition along with it. Elizabeth understands that England's resources are depleted, as is its money; a counterattack will be much harder to plan and execute. Despite being incredibly strong-willed, something is holding her back, something that's diminishing her confidence. She seems to rely on Raleigh to soothe her, despite not knowing who he is or where he came from. All we do know is that he's arrived home from the New World, where he named a colony in honor of the Virgin Queen (Virginia). We've seen many films that make the Mysterious Stranger engaging or downright sexy--indeed, Raleigh is dashing, flirtatious, and bold. Just watch the way he presents potatoes and tobacco to Elizabeth.

Hoping to win favor with the Queen, Raleigh gets close to her favorite Lady in Waiting, Bess (Abbie Cornish), and it becomes obvious that his affections are divided between these two women. This plot device could have been much more interesting had it not been so cliché; I've seen romantic conflict before, and it's usually reserved for escapist films. But "The Golden Age" is historical in context. I wanted more focus on the impending Spanish attack, especially since it was so intertwined with Elizabeth's assassination plot. The final major sequence does feature some battle, but not enough to be satisfying. It's as if the film fizzles out after spending so much time building itself up. It's not entirely a letdown, but it is a disappointment. This is especially true of Elizabeth's pre-battle speech: clad in armor, she rides a horse in front of her army while spewing encouraging sayings. I half expected her to say that the enemy may take their lives, but they'd never take their freedom.

Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. I greatly enjoyed Blanchett's performance; she gave Elizabeth a determined yet fragile quality that was compelling. I distinctly remember an emotional outburst aimed at the Spanish ambassador: "I too can command the wind, sir!" she screams. "I have a hurricane in me that will strip Spain bare if you dare to try me!" This moment was raw and overwhelming, which was appropriate given her emotional state. I also remember a scene in an astrologist's lair showing Elizabeth's desperation. She clearly couldn't stand not knowing how everything would turn out. It was prophesized that two kingdoms would battle and only one would fall--the Queen would like nothing more than to hear that England will be victorious. Unfortunately, that cannot be guaranteed.

Yes, there is a lot to recommend about "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," and thank goodness that the good outweighs the bad. This is not a perfect film, but it can still get an audience from point A to point B. And it certainly is wonderful to look at; every shot is so richly detailed that you can't help but admire the work that went into it. The costumes are vivid, colorful, and intricate. The sets are lavish and bold, with practically every location dripping with colorful tapestries. The armada attack features a number of convincing special effects. Basically, everything felt real in terms of the film's look. The film's story, on the other hand, wasn't all that it could have been. There's a wealth of material on Queen Elizabeth I, and I can't help but feel that most of it was disregarded to make room for romantic elements. Romance works, but only to a point.
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VINE VOICEon February 11, 2008
It's not often that I review movies (there are some exceptions) but felt compelled to do so here as there seem to be so many that disliked Elizabeth - The Golden Age. I saw this when it first came out in the theaters and was thoroughly impressed. Yes, the costumes were spectacular, the photography superlative, and the scenery breathtaking; in other words, this film is filled with eye candy. Cate Blanchett played the awesomely beautiful queen and I was transfixed by her performance - something that normally doesn't happen to me when I go to a movie.

Granted, there may be many historical inaccuracies in this film but I didn't buy a ticket to receive an education - I use other sources (such a books) to accomplish that. (What a concept!) Elizabeth - The Golden Age, effectively transported me out of the here and now into another realm which only the arts can do. It also led to a desire to read more on the life of the "Virgin Queen." It is for those reasons that I would highly recommend this film.
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ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE isn't golden. Expectations were high after Cate Blanchett's first foray in 1998 as Elizabeth I, but somehow this follow-up film, with the same director (Shekhar Kapur) and writer (Michael Hirst with assistance from William Nicholson), does not reach those heights. Visually stunning, with an endless array of knockout costumes for Blanchett, special effects and scenery as majestic as any that have been photographed by fine cinematographer Remie Adefarasin and a musical score by Craig Armstrong and AR Rahman - all of these fine attributes cannot cover the weak script and the general lack of character development that hampers the usually exceptional core of actors.

The portion of Elizabeth's history covered by the film is the battle with Spain, England being the only country not participating in the Holy War in Europe under the direction of King Philip II of Spain (Jordi Mollà), complete with the surprise decimation of the approaching Spanish Armada due to the heroism and commitment of Elizabeth with her people. The surrounding events include Elizabeth's dalliance with Sir Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen) and the traumatic (for Elizabeth) beheading of Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), under the advisement of Elizabeth's trusted Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush).

Blanchett is a consummate actress and manages to inhabit the persona of Elizabeth as much with her glances and body language and silences as with the meager material from the script. She IS a Queen reborn. The remainder of the cast is adequate though shallow, and while each has very little to say they maintain an atmosphere of Elizabethan England. This is a DVD that could well be watched without the soundtrack and still be entertaining for the visual splendors. It could have been so much more. Grady Harp, February 08
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on October 13, 2007
Cate Blanchett has outdone even her own self.She has mastered a role that many actresses have also played,but SHE has become Her Royal Majesty Elizabeth even more so in Shekhar Kapur's newest installment ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE than she was in the first ELIZABETH in 1998.Blanchett is the perfect combination of ice and fire,vulnerability and bullheadedness,sensitivity and rageaholic and masculine and feminine to bring England's savior to the screen.Ms.Blanchett is so in control of herself that the corset stays tied, but the fear and passion always dwell just below the surface.She is Queen.At one point,Blanchett,in a rage at the Spanish Ambassador screams "I have a hurricane within me"....and she does,because Blanchett does.
Blanchett may well see her first BEST ACRESS Oscar this year.She has a Golden Globe and another win would be no surprise.This film has many magnificent qualities going for it,but ultimately it is Cate Blanchett's astute and finely tuned skills as an actress par excellent that carry this film to victory.
The year is 1585.Spain is eying the English throne.Sequestered up in Fartheringay Castle in Scotland,Mary Stuart the Queen of Scotland (an amazing and convincing Samantha Morton performance as always) also has her own designs to usurp Elizabeth,"that bastard whore." Elizabeth is still advised by her chief counselor Francis Walsingham (again Geoffrey Rush reprising his brilliant role from the original).Walsingham still has safeguarded England as a Protestant country.Philip of Spain and Mary Stuart, though, are Catholic, and are set to unseat Elizabeth as Queen.But another usurper enters early on;a usurper of the heart,Sir Walter Raleigh (a well made up and swashbuckled Clive Owen).What Kapur does so beautifully with all of these players is to reveal the immense struggle that existed for Elizabeth not only from without, but also within.As Queen she must rule and be obeyed; but she is also a woman who has a heart, and that heart has denied itself many of life's pleasures in order that she may "be married to England." This is the single brilliance of Kapur's film;though he needs to fit in historical facts to tell the actions that do indeed occur between the countries and their monarchs, Kapur always keeps his focus always on Elizabeth, the ruler AND the woman.Even as Elizabeth "allows" (somewhat)her chief lady,Bess, to be wooed by Raleigh that she states, "live my adventures through you" or when Elizabeth, clad in armour atop a white steed proclaims to her troops, "We shall not be defeated.Whether in Heaven or on the field of battle,(that was a loose translation!) we shall return victorious" ,our focus is always on this miraculously strong and clever woman whose reign brought prosperity to England that would last three centuries.Kapur is confident in his Queen "Cate" to deliver the goods...and she does.Kapur has his Elizabeth calmly slip her royal signet ring onto her finger and has her in an almost Moses-like stance facing the raging winds and the thunder and lightening as she surveys, in her night clothes, the fighting ships in the Channel.Here Elizabeth is the warrior and the woman in one...powerful and mighty to withstand the Spanish onslaught.
The battle between the British and the Spanish Armada off the white cliffs of Dover is awesome and powerful to behold. The Channel is ablaze with blasting canons and "fire ships".One scene that Kapur vividly implanted in my mind is that of a white mare jumping from one of the Spanish ships.Kapur's camera follows the horse from underneath,swimming in the fiery waters, while Roman crosses and goblets fall to the Channel floor along with the bodies of dead warriors.This is a very arresting piece of camera work and symbolism of the Spaniard's defeat from which they never recovered.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the totally engrossing soundtrack that propelled all of the action forward while never over-asserting itself.That is the hallmark of a fine soundtrack.
Did I love it? ABSOLUTELY.
Would I see it again? DEFINITELY.
Will I purchase the DVD? Yep (but it is awesome on a big screen and will be significantly diminished!)
Will Cate Blanchett get her first BEST ACTRESS Academy Award? So far,POSITIVELY.
What else makes this movie magnificent? Costumes,Sound,Cinematography,Original Screenplay,Editing,supporting actors. was THAT good!As a sequel, it fulfilled all my hopes.
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on December 21, 2007
As I am a die hard fan of Kapur's Elizabeth, I was overjoyed when I found out that they were releasing a sequel, with both Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush returning. I made sure that I saw it on the date it came out, but I left the theatre feeling disappointed.

Don't get me wrong, Elizabeth: The Golden Age is an entertaining and visually lush film. The costumes are beautiful, the music is nice, and Blanchett (though looking a little young for a queen who should have been in her 50s), Rush, Clive Owen (as Walter Raleigh), and Samantha Morton (as Mary Queen of Scots) all give wonderful performances. However, it still felt as if the movie had something missing.

I know that the first Elizabeth was riddled with historical inaccuracies, but the movie contained so much plot and intrigue it allowed one to overlook its inconsistencies. Elizabeth: The Golden Age, however, falls short in that it focuses almost exclusively on the pseudo-romance between Elizabeth and Walter Raleigh (while Elizabeth did indeed have feelings for many of her male court favorites, Raleigh included, it was far from the fairy tale we see here) at the expense of leaving out many important characters and events. For example, where is Elizabeth's former love and best friend Robert Dudley? He is not even mentioned in this film, and it is a well known fact that not only did he participate in the Armada in 1588, he died later that same year, causing Elizabeth to stay shut in her room for days. Also missing is his stepson Robert Devereaux, the Earl of Essex, who was well on his way to becoming Elizabeth's golden boy.

Inaccuracies aside, there was so much going on in the actual time of Elizabeth I's second half of her reign (The Golden Age) that it is quite sad that all we get to see in this film consists of Elizabeth and Raleigh flirting, dancing, and riding around on horseback together or Elizabeth whispering her fears and desires to the only lady-in-waiting who seems to have been of any degree of importance, Bess Throckmorton (later Bess Raleigh).

The sad thing is, that with such talented actors, all this needed was a more fleshed out script and this could have come close to equalling its predecessor.
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on February 12, 2008
"Elizabeth - The Golden Age" deserves five stars for its beautiful costumes, magnificent sets and locations, and breathtaking cinematography, but only three stars for its approach to history and for giving Elizabeth I an enlightened and politically correct 21st century personality.

The film deals with some of the most famous events of Elizabeth's reign - the Babington Plot which led directly to the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, the invasion of the Spanish armada, encounters with Walter Raleigh. Don't come to this expecting an education; the film has only a nodding acquaintance with historical facts.

As you would expect, the visual quality of the DVD is outstanding. The disc's special features include deleted scenes; short subjects on the making of the film; the reign of Elizabeth; creating the armada; towers, courts, and cathedrals; and a director's commentary.

Recommended for its stunning visuals, but don't expect a history lesson
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on August 7, 2008
Costumes were beautiful, Blanchett was worth watching most of the time & other actors were pretty decent, but the history sucked and for such a strong female character, they sure made her look petty & idiotic at times. Also, why do so many movies turn Spain into the evil character? The portrayal of King Phillip was pretty absurd & really made the movie laughable. (the movie Amistad really used Spain as a scapegoat, too, when England did it's fair share in the slave trade.) Elizabeth I had a lot more to her life, boiling it down to just a bad romance is a pretty big disservice.
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on February 9, 2008
After seeing the first film (Elizabeth), I expected much more from this film, and was disappointed. The action is abrupt to the point of jarring, and there are too many scenes where Blanchett just stands in a costume while the camera whirls around her. The photography and sets are excellent, but not enough to carry this pretentious and poorly executed flick. I'm sorry I wasted the money to rent it.
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on February 7, 2008
Oh, the costumes look fabulous. Ditto the set design and locations. But come on...Elizabeth comes off as shrill, petty, obsessive, and hysterical here, while Walsingham pops up now and then as a prop. Sir Walter Raleigh is somewhat interesting, as is the queen's favorite lady, Bess--but the story isn't supposed to be about them, is it?
It's also incredibly irritating to watch scene after scene of actors being filmed through frosted glass. Apparently the director and cinematographer couldn't think of anything else to do.
The whole film comes off as surprisingly dull, given the potential strength of the subject matter. Too bad.
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on April 15, 2012
I'm not very knowledgeable about directors, writers, and others in the industry but I'll give my unenlightened opinion anyway. The current "no child left behind," uneducated generation excepted, most other kids learned about Elizabethan England and the Armada in the 7th grade, I know I did. This film was accurate about the armada being wrecked in a storm and that's about it. The rest was pure disappointing fantasy. How on earth could a director or producer expect an audience to buy into this already well known event in English history? The real Queen Elizabeth powdered her face white in the fashion of the day. One of her favorite swear phrases was, "God's death!" Where were these? And the sight of Elizabeth in Joan-of-Arc armor rousing the troops was actually too comedic for any halfway educated audience to swallow. The writers need to find another line of work. Truck repair or WalMart cashier come to mind. The director used every directing cliche' in the book. A real hack job. The Spaniards were depicted as Darth Vader villains, with dark clothes and mean looking faces.

Nothing was good about this flop except for some of Cate Blanchett's acting, the costumes, and the cinematography. Those are the only reasons it deserves even one star

But then, I really shouldn't complain because I bought this DVD stinker in a Goodwil store for 99 cents. The Cover art and data indicated it was history. I now know why it was there. I just regret wasting my time watching it.

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